As a pastoral intern, I’ve been swept into the whirlwind that is Advent from the inside for the past two years. It’s a season I’ve never thought much about other than the weekly lighting of the family Advent wreaths when I was growing up. Even now, I’m not entirely sure what Advent is about. I think of celebration, but also of waiting and expectation and darkness. We have to get through darkness and hope that feels more like disappointment before we can get to the celebration. It’s about real life, and how it’s not all the perfection of that Christmas card, because so much came before that moment (and let’s be real. We all know that, after a long journey, giving birth to a baby, and just the general presence of animals, that that scene was NOT that picture perfect!) But I’ve never done something for Advent, other than the family wreaths, and I think this is the year to change that.

No, our Advent wreaths are neither this neat nor this color-coordinated. Image source:
No, our wreaths are neither this neat nor this color-coordinated. (source)

A few days ago I wrote about work and inspiration for Five Minute Friday. And since then I’ve been thinking about work and God and just what I want from life–what I’ve been called to do by God. Social media addiction isn’t part of that. A tiny attention span isn’t part of that. Not taking seminary or my jobs seriously isn’t part of that. So, as a way to prepare and cleanse and live in the real life moments, I am committing to a discipline of focus this Advent: on God and on my work.

These are my goals for Advent, then, the ways that I hope to simplify in order to help me focus on what’s important:

  • Continue what I’m (mostly) doing–journaling every night, praying daily, and reading the Bible every morning–as a way to focus on God.
  • Try to see God in each day. Perhaps every week I’ll post some of the most memorable places I’ve seen God?
  • Spend at least an hour every day (except my Sabbath) writing.
  • Work on my focus. That means so many things for me: less empty social media time, not allowing myself to be distracted from one task to another, reading and writing and working well (I’ve clicked over to various other pages at least ten times since starting to write this post! Clearly this will be difficult). I don’t want to turn this into a mindless to-do task, that has to be done OR ELSE, but I also want this to actually happen. So my goal is to work on one thing at a time for long periods of time, while still taking breaks (just not excessively!).
  • Focus on others: buy justly-produced products, donate time and money, and pray for others.

Maybe these are too many goals for a month, but I’ve been feeling distracted and shattered lately. The season of Advent is a good time to practice waiting, to practice living each day well as preparation for what God is doing. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, whether you create your own Advent practice or not!

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